I grew up partially in Utah County and then my family moved to Southwest Michigan when I was 15, that's where I went to high school and started college. I was raised Mormon and my parents were fairly conservative. I grew up middle class. I was surrounded by white conservative Mormons for the first 15 years of my life. While Michigan is also conservative, I was finally exposed to people who weren't Mormon and that really helped me start to figure out what I believed. I had never really believed in the Mormon church, but seeing people be happy and not Mormon, I realized I could be too. I left at age 16 and that really upset my parents. My older sister came out as bisexual and left the church right before I did so we became really close and we relied on each other when it came to my parents not accepting us for a while.
My parents raised me to be a "woman in the church". That really impacted how my high school experience went. I was very rebellious and went against my parents a lot, especially after coming out and my parents having a difficult time accepting it. My parents moved back to Utah and I stayed in Michigan for a year. During that time I really figured out who I was and what I believed. I didn't have much of a relationship with my parents at that time. I did a lot of learning and growing because I had some space from them, even though at times it was incredibly painful to feel unloved by them. Now my relationship with them is a lot better and I feel like they are finally fully accepting me.
For me personally, I didn’t really realize what my gender identity was until I was allowed to think about it. Questioning the church is when I started to think about my identity. In the church, that's not really something you can think about. However, thinking back and reflecting to my childhood, I think there were a lot of things that kind of pointed to that direction. Some of them are kind of silly. I would always do what my brother did. I would copy him. If he took his shirt off, I took my shirt off. I saw no issue with that. When I was really little, I didn’t want to wear a dress to church and my parents tried to force me to wear a dress. After a while, they just got me pants to wear to church. I was always a “tomboy” growing up. I do have an early memory. I was around five or six at the time and talking to my friend. I told them that I thought God made a mistake, I’m supposed to be a boy. But then, I didn’t think about it after that moment. I shut that down because it was like, “Oh, God doesn’t make mistakes.” I just didn’t think about that for a long time and then in high school my mom taught me how to wear makeup. So I did full femininity for a while before realizing why I wasn’t comfortable with that. It just manifested in a lot of depression and anxiety. Being what I thought was just really "self-conscious". People say, “all girls hate their bodies”...because that is taught that all girls hate their bodies. In my head I thought being a girl just hurts. It’s just painful. Then I realized later on, after leaving the church, that I could explore my gender identity. I did some online googling and saw that how I was feeling is a thing. Some people feel the way that I do.
I try to be as open as possible. I know for other trans people it is a big safety issue to be open. I’m not always open in certain spaces like at work. In my social life I try to be as open as possible because I know that for a lot of people they have never knowingly met a trans person. It’s very possible that a lot of people have met a trans person and didn’t know it. I know that it’s not easy.
Growing up, especially not realizing what was going on, it was a big relief to learn about what being trans was because there was a name for it. There was something I could call myself and figure out where to go from there, but it was still a very long and difficult journey. I think that’s the case for a lot of trans folks. You get the first sense of relief when you figure out that this is who I am, there’s a word for it. But then, the road to go down medically transitioning, if that's something you’re wanting to do, is a very difficult road for a lot of people.
I have been very lucky in where I’ve lived. I have been able to have access to hormones, I lived close enough to an informed consent clinic where I didn’t need a therapist note to start hormones. I was able to go and meet with the doctor and get the prescription. Before I was able to start any sort of transition, like medical transition, it was very uncomfortable. It’s hard because on one hand, you want to love your body. You want to love the body you have. I try to be body positive and think that all bodies are good bodies, but it’s very difficult when there are certain parts of your body that are an issue and there are certain parts that you really don’t like. I had a really hard time because there are certain parts that I am fine with, that are seen as feminine, or seen as assigned for women that I am okay with for parts of my body. I don’t really care for being a big strong muscly dude. If I really wanted to work out and gain muscles I could, but I really don’t care.
Sometimes people say, “Imagine if you woke up as a girl. Say you were a guy and you woke up as a girl. How weird would that be?”. I didn’t think that was quite the right analogy. I heard a similar one that was, “Imagine you’re a guy and you woke up and everyone is calling you a girl and everyone is referring to you with female pronouns and it doesn’t feel right." You feel like that’s not how you are supposed to be referred to. It’s just that feeling of you know who you are, but sometimes the outside world sees you as something you’re not and that can be incredibly painful because you’re constantly having to justify to everyone who you are. In some debate settings where you have to argue that who you are is legit, it’s a losing battle. How can you prove to somebody you are who you say you are? You just have to take my word for it. Some people are just not going to take your word for it, which is fine. People can have their opinions, but it doesn’t hurt to just believe people. It’s hard to figure out your gender identity. It is not something that I just woke up one day deciding I wanted to be a boy now. It took a lot of not just thinking and pondering, but a lot of self-reflection to navigate what I was feeling. I had to figure out for myself if these feelings were legitimate feelings. Coming out, I had to figure out for myself, without a doubt, before coming out to anyone else. Just believe people when they tell you. You don’t know what that person is experiencing. You can’t tell somebody whether or not they are right or wrong about themselves.
My parents when I first came out acted like it was a phase. They didn’t tell me to my face that they thought it was a phase, but the way they responded to me starting my medical transition showed me that they did not think that was a good idea at all. For example, I just had top surgery a couple weeks ago which is a huge step for me. I was really excited about it. My parents knew that that was the next step for me. I had been on hormones for about four years and I had been out for five. So it was something that I had talked to them about earlier. When it finally got to that point, I told my parents that I was having my consultation and my mom was just shocked by it. That’s been a hard thing. My parents are also the kind of people sometimes to just not talk about it. It's been hard because there are things that I want to talk to my parents about. I want to talk about how I am finally feeling super happy and super comfortable with myself, and I can’t talk to them about it because it’s going to be weird and there’s going to be tension. Whereas there’s other people in my life, like my sister and her wife, and they are very ecstatic for me. There’s some ups and downs.